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Wed, 25 Jul 2012

Movies: what I have seen recently

Hunger Games: my rating 7/10

I liked Hunger Games. To the extend that I got the 3 books of the trilogy from Amazon on my iPad and read them during my vacation last May. First books I bought for the Kindle application, and first books I read on the iPad. Solid acting in the movie by the young lady playing Katniss... in the end, it's still somewhat of a teen movie, but quite enjoyable. I will be watching for the next 2 movies.

Man on a Ledge: my rating 8/10

Good thriller, good cop movie. Actually better than I would have expected from the movie poster. Recommended.

Sur la route du Marsupilami: my rating 4/10

Well, I really wanted to like Sur la trace du Marsupilami, as I have known the Marsupilami cartoons since my youth, and Jamel Debouze can be quite funny (I remember fondly his performance in Asterix mission Cleopatre. But in the end, the movie disappoints: the Marsupilami is not really as unforgettable as one would have hoped, and many of the jokes fall flat. It made me chukle a few times, but unfortunately not enough to rate more than 4/10.

Wrath of the Titans: my rating 6/10

An interesting depiction of the age of titans and the story of Perseus. I generally like fanasty/mythological movies, and this one was OK... the special effects were quite good, I loved the cyclops (amazing how far we've come from the movies of the 1970s). I watched it on a plane, but it would be good to see on a large screen.

/misc | Posted at 15:43 | permanent link

Yet Another A380 Adventure to Report


Oh noes! Another A380 adventure.

If you have been reading this miniblog for a while, you may have read my previous postings about my woes with A380s (here).

Well, I did it again: for this summer's vacations, I picked the Paris-Montreal flight on the A380. What is happening this time? Well, one of the on-board computers is deffective on the plane, and after some testing they found that they needed to replace it and then run some diagnostics. So, instead of taking off at 13:30 as originally planned, we are still sitting on the tarmac in a powered down plane so they can replace the electronic gizmo... and it is 14:00. Of course, no movies or meal service, as we've not really left yet!

At least, some good news: as the plane is fully booked and there was a long waiting list, we were upgraded from Premium Class to Business Class, so the wait has not been unpleasant. But still, my luck with the A380 continues to be so-so (I'd venture that 50% of my A380 flights so far have had various problems or incidents). Through all of this, Air France is being quite nice, but still the incident rate is surprisingly high.

It might have to do with the fact that there are 6 A380s in the Air France fleet (compared to, say, 59 Boeing 777s), so when you've got a difficulty with the pilot or with a technical component, you're probably more likely to be on your own.

Anyway, if I understand correctly, Air France will stop flying A380s on the Paris-Montreal route in a few weeks: not a big loss from my point of view :-/

To sum it up: nice plane, but still a bit early in its life to have it be as reliable as some of the workhorses in the airline industry. In a few years it will be fine.

(update: the plane has re-powered up... hopefully the diagnostics on the onboard computer will pass and we'll have the green light to take off.)

(Update 2: 16:23, the final tests on the onboard computer have been successfully run and we have the green light to depart -- let's now see what sort of timeslot we get for takeoff)

(Update 3: 16:38, we're heading for takeoff. More info in Montreal... can wait to get there and meet the family)

(update 4: 19:14, service is very friendly on Air France; nice meal, nice movies.
Overall, a nice flight... almost forgot about the 3h delay ;-)

| Posted at 15:08 | permanent link

Mon, 23 Jul 2012

More on Ivybridge ultrabooks

Dell XPS14 ultrabook ASUS Zenbook Prime UX32

I have not yet bought a new laptop, but the first few IvyBridge ultrabooks are starting to come out.

As I've written before, I am interested in a lightweight machine that is going to be powerful enough to last a few years. I don't want one of those silly 1366x768 screens that you find on many otherwise fine machines (like on the Toshiba Portege Z930), and I do not think that the Intel HD Graphics 4000 are going to be sufficient to run the odd game on the road (Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, or various Steam games).

I fear I am a few months too early :-( The new Dell XPS 14 looks promising, but the reviews I've seen so far have been fairly disappointing unfortunately. So, I had almost decided on an Asus Zen Prime UX32VD-DB71 which has a backlit keyboard, a nice 1080p screen and a proper GPU (though unfortunately it is Nvidia's entry-level GPU, the GeForce GT620M, instead of the GT630 like in the XPS14, but apparently it is good enough for 60+ FPS in World of Warcraft). However, they are sold out at Amazon Canada, and in most other Canadian resellers I've seen... Oh well, if it takes them too long to stock them up, new machines will come out that may fit my requirements even better :-)

Hmpf. For the price of a Dell XPS14, one can almost get an Alienware M14xR2, but that's not an ultrabook... it even comes with a DVD drive! (pity you can't configure it out to lighten the weight of the machine)

Going forward, I think that the Microsoft Surface gizmos actually look quite attractive... let's see if I'll wait until they come out to renew my machine.

(pictures from the Dell and Asus websites)

/hardware | Posted at 20:06 | permanent link

TGVs: fast train service in Europe


Over the past few days, I have travelled from Paris to Cologne, to Brussels, to London, and then back to Paris. All of this in the comfort of a fast TGV train (the Thalys for France-Germany-Belgium, and the Eurostar from Belgium-UK-France).

Fast trains are a very civilized way to travel: they are comfortable, you can eat properly (well better than on regional airplanes), and some (like the Thalys) even provide WiFi access in the cars (mind you, the access is not flawless, but compared to no access, it is much preferable and truly welcome).

Coming from North America, where trains are not in most people's travel habits, I have discovered the pleasure of a well-run rail system, and it is indeed a great way to travel.

(picture from Wikipedia)

/misc | Posted at 20:06 | permanent link

A few words about Windows 8

Speaking of the Microsoft Surface and of Windows 8, I must admit that I am a bit worried about Windows 8 for laptops/desktops (as reported here: Windows 8 'bad' for desktop users). It does match with my limited experience with Windows 8 consumer preview: not very pleasant on a desktop machine: I got the impression that I was constantly fighting with Metro to get stuff done using the mouse and keyboard. I like tablets, but if I'm sitting at my desk, I don't want a "touch" paradigm :-(

/hardware | Posted at 18:19 | permanent link